Sweden test (description of mental)

Journey to Sweden for the mental description at the Swedish working dog club

Swedish collie breeders invited Christine Erdmann and me to participate actively with our young dogs in a dog event of mental description organised by the Swedish working dog club.
Then the 14th of August 2010 was fixed as the date for the event which was to take place on the dog sports ground in Falkenberg (south of Sweden), located at the Baltic Sea.
In preparation for our previous journeys I found out that it is possible to receive very useful information at the city information by e-mail or mail.
We booked the ferry from Rostock and two cabins on the outskirts of Falkenberg, only a few hundred metres from the dog-field. We had carried out the necessary rabies regulations for the one and a half years old dogs in good time. Not later than ten days before the departure to Sweden a veterinary surgeon has to confirm that the dog has received an anthelmintic therapy and a treatment against ticks. A good protection against ticks is very important in Sweden. We had also planned a few days’ holiday to get to know the surrounding area (nature, Baltic coast and two towns).
Together with my daughter Jenny, Christine Erdmann, Stefan Erdmann and Stefanie Bonk as well as the young dogs, we started our journey on 12th August 2010.
One day before the event took place, we explored the area of the dog sports ground. It was impressingly large, with one agility ground, one Schutzhund ground, a big club building with kitchen, terrace and three big rooms. The event of mental description was planned to take place in the adjoining forest, in which we walked with our dogs.
Beforehand I had spoken with German dog owners who had already participated with their dogs in the mental description. Video films, photos and their experiences helped me to get an expression of what to expect with my young dogs.

The mental description

The mental description is the same for all dog breeds.
It consists of a series of artificially created situations. A judge who is trained for mental description assesses the behaviour of the dogs in the individual situations and ticks the results in a multiple-choice evaluation sheet. The owner of the dog and the breeder get one copy of this and one remains with the Swedish Kennel Club SKK. There is no passing or failing. Before the stress becomes traumatic, the judge can cancel the mental description, but also the owner is allowed to do so if he has a reason. Under certain conditions the dog can be shown once again. In Sweden a collie has to pass the mental description according to the rules to receive the breed permission. However, a “cancelled” dog is allowed to actively participate in dog sports. In Sweden the collie needs this breeding prerequisite because in this country he belongs to the working dogs. On the website of the SKK the evaluation of the mental description can be seen. In this way every breeder has the possibility to decide on his own about the planned litters according to certain behaviour patterns. Of course the desired characteristics will be different depending on the breed.

On Saturday, 14th August 2010 we were welcomed in a friendly way by two Swedish collie breeders on the dog-field. A female member of dog sports interpreted for us in fluent German. Later she told us that she had migrated from Germany to Sweden many years ago.
Only for our young dogs from Germany the mental description was planned for this day. I was astonished how many helpers were necessary to make sure that things run smoothly. Everybody wished us a lot of success.
Mrs. Erdmann and Stefanie were the first to pass the stations together with “Varec von der Prignitzer Flur”. Jenny and I, as well as other spectators, went along from station to station. I watched the situations very tensely and the young male managed them well. The system of mental description became clearer to me. Jenny and I started more relaxed with Erik and Elsa.

Varec Von der Prignitzer Flur
Foto Erik und Elsa vom Postberg

Description of the situations that I experienced at the different stations:

1. station: A group of helpers stands together. The dog handler leads the dog on the lead through the group. The head of the examination then takes the dog on the lead approx. 25-30 metres with him, then comes back and stimulates the dog with a knotted cloth to play. The cloth is thrown between the dog handler and the head of the examination. The judge watches this and ticks his observations in the standardised form (at all stations).
2. station: A cloth out of fur fabric was tied to a rope. It lay zigzag at the ends over rolls. The dog on the lead spots from a distance that the cloth is disappearing like a fleeing prey into the bush. The dog handler is given detailed instructions by the head of the examination. The dog is put off the lead and the dog handler encourages the dog by moving one step forward and in this way shows him that he is now allowed to examine the situation. If the dog does not start running on his own then the dog handler starts together with the dog and encourages him. The situation is repeated.
A group of approx. 10 persons (who behave in a calm and disciplined manner) as well as the head of the examination and the judge go along from one station to the next at just a few metres’ distance.
3. station: The head of the examination gives exact instructions (also at all other stations). The dog handler stands together with his dog on the lead quietly for 3 minutes in the forest and does not pay attention to his dog. The head of the examination watches the dog.
4. station: The dog handler stands with his dog on a clearing and holds the dog at the collar. 50 metres away a very exceptionally dressed person comes out of the forest, first hopping, then shouting, then using a toy in an animating way. He then disappears again on the other side into the forest. The dog handler takes off the lead from the dog and moves one step forward. The dog’s behaviour is watched. The dog handler approaches the person who is standing at the edge of the forest. Animated by the dog handler (friendly address, stroking) the dog gets in touch with the person. The person encourages the dog to play by using a knotted cloth. The judge watches how independent and sociable the dog is and if he plays with the person.
5. station: On a forest path dark work clothes are hung between two trees so that it can be pulled up by a rope from the ground. The dog handler moves together with his dog on the lead towards the trees and some metres before reaching them the work clothes are pulled up. The dog handler and the dog get a fright. The dog has the possibility to jump away for the length of one lead. To get a fright is “allowed”. The dog is put off the lead and the judge watches the dog’s behaviour. The dog handler is asked to move gradually towards the lifted work clothes, to squat when reaching the clothes and to call the dog in a friendly and luring way. If the dog comes and snuffles, he is praised. After that the dog handler passes together with the dog on the lead the lifted work clothes two times. The judge observes how the dog could be motivated to deal with the situation after the moment of shock (threatening movement) and to what extent the dog was able to recover from this situation.
6. station: 100 metres further along the forest path, a few metres next to the dog handler and the dog on the lead, tins are suddenly pulled over a corrugated metal sheet. To get a fright is “allowed”. The dog is taken off the lead and the judge observes the dog’s behaviour. The dog handler is asked to gradually move towards the metal sheet, to squat in front of it and to call the dog in a motivating way. If the dog comes and sniffles, he is praised. Then the dog handler and the dog on the lead pass the metal sheet two times. The judge observes how the dog could be motivated to deal with the situation after the moment of shock (sound) and to what extent he was able to recover from the situation.
7. station: The dog handler stands together with his dog on the lead calmly in the middle of the forest and does not pay attention to the dog. Two people disguised in white and wearing masks approach alternately and gradually from different directions. The dog watches the approaching persons and reacts. The situation is resolved by the dog handler who goes to one of the persons, stops, removes the mask, calls the dog and praises him when he sniffles and gets in touch with the person (friendly address and stroking). The same course of action is used with the second person. The judge observes how the dog behaves towards the approaching and disguised persons and how independent and sociable he reacts.
8. station: The dog handler and the head of the examination play with the dog on the forest path using a knotted cloth. Two shots are fired from bushes 30 metres away from them. Shortly afterwards the dog handler and the dog are on the path and two shots are fired again. After that the dog handler is asked to play with his dog (catch game, play with the cloth). The judge watches how the dog reacts to the shots and how he then continues to play with the dog handler.

The course of action, the behaviour of the dog handler and of the spectators etc. are cleverly devised. The dog is allowed to get a fright, it depends on how able he is to work under pressure, how he deals with stress and how fast he is able to relieve it.

Done it!

At the end of the mental description the judge explained in detail his observations including a translation into German.
Erik and Elsa had done the course according to the rules and were bulletproof. This was a nice feeling of joy.
The head of the examination translated the standardised evaluation sheet in writing so that we could understand the results of the observation of our dogs.
In the evening we were invited to a barbecue by our Swedish collie friends. It poured and so we had to come up with something. Finally we sat “open end” talking lively. We felt really comfortable.


A walk along the beach with problems

We looked forward to relaxing walks with our dogs along the Baltic coast. Soon we were advised by a furious hiker that dogs are not allowed on this quite remote beach on the outskirts of Falkenberg from the middle of May until the middle of September. This person threatened to call the police unless we would immediately leave the beach. We asked about a beach for dogs and then found 100 metres of it in a small bay on the other side of the town. We realised in disappointment that this part of the beach smelled unbearable because of algae that had been washed ashore and were rotting.
Our Swedish collie friends recommended a very nice beach for dogs and we had a lot of fun playing with our dogs in the shallow water.

Water games in the Baltic Sea